PINEDALE — Food security and availability of fresh, local produce are important issues to Pinedale locals Dr. Scott Kosiba and fiancée Chef Madeline Robicheaux. With Kosiba’s background in biology and Robicheaux’s expertise in culinary arts, the two have set out to try and meet those needs for Sublette County.
In 2018 the couple started Tumbleweed Farms, sourcing regional small farmer-grown produce mainly from Montana, Colorado and Utah to sell locally in Sublette County. The two had unofficially been in the farmer’s market business since 2017 and have been growing their network of farmers since.
Expanding the business to provide fresh produce locally year-round has been part of the plan, Kosiba said. Food shortages resulting from the recent pandemic pushed their business plan into high gear.
Kosiba said they’d been planning to address food security prior to the pandemic. They were originally concerned because of the increasing prevalence of drought and the unpredictability of weather patterns due to climate change, as well as the short growing season in Sublette County.
“When the pandemic hit, it really pushed us into high gear because one of the biggest issues that is happening around the country is food supply chains are breaking down,” Kosiba said.
“When this came up, we were able to quickly mobilize. We already had the infrastructure because we’ve already been hustling peaches, so-to-speak.”
Their supply runs out after the growing season ends there though. Because of this, the goal is to eventually grow as much produce locally year-round as possible.
To achieve their goal, they plan to build an aquaponics farm.
Aquaponics is a hybrid between hydroponics and aquaculture, Kosiba said. Hydroponics is growing plants in water. Aquaculture is farming any kind of fish product. To combine the two, fish are grown in a tank, then the waste from the fish provides a natural fertilizer for the plants. At harvest time, both plants and fish products can be sold.
“We want to be able to do this as efficiently and sustainably as possible,” he said.
The closed-loop system minimizes inputs needed and maximizes sellable products, Kosiba said. Within five years they hope to grow about 30% of produce consumed locally. Tumbleweed will continue outsourcing produce such as peaches, mangos, avocados and oranges though.
“We’ll always have that component where we work with regional farms and can support those small growers in what they’re doing,” Kosiba said.
“There’s a lot of moving pieces right now,” Kosiba said. “My hope is that we’ll be able to break ground by the end of next summer, and be in operation by winter of 2022.”
At this point, Kosiba said a lot depends on funding. He and Robicheaux’s hopes lie in grant applications now. Once their aquaponics farm is operational, he said they expect to provide 10 to 30 jobs in their first roll out in production.
Meanwhile, Tumbleweed is selling their seasonal produce at Pinedale’s High Altitude farmers market, as well as a social-distancing friendly market on Saturday afternoons, located at 210 W. Pine St.
With help from the non-profit organization Main Street Pinedale and the Town of Pinedale, the permit to use the vacant lot along Main Street was secured for Tumbleweed’s Saturday market.
“We thought, as an organization, it was really helpful to have the two options and I think they are going to work really well together,” said Sam Harnack of Main Street Pinedale.
The new Saturday market is meant to piggyback off the High Altitude market because it’s a no-contact market. Essentially a drive-thru, individuals can order and pay from inside their vehicle. There’s also an online order and prepay option. Those looking for the traditional atmosphere of a farmers market can still enjoy the High Altitude market on Thursday afternoons.
“One of the great things about Tumbleweed and Scott and Madeline is they want to be cohesive. They’re in it for the long game,” Harnack said. “I really wanted to make sure that wherever I could, I was being helpful. I’m not going to create a business, however, I can help facilitate someone who is.”
“The collaboration with Main Street Pinedale and the Town of Pinedale has been so helpful,” Kosiba said. “They did so much to make all this happen for us.”
Along with their own goods, Tumbleweed Farms will add other vendors’ goods to their no-contact market. Kosiba encourages vendors who are interested in participating to contact them.
They’re not stopping there though, this no-contact market will be mobile, traveling around Sublette County every week. Tumbleweed also plans to integrate a home-delivery option to their no-contact market, available near each location during the week.
“It’s something that we can do to provide value to the community, for us that’s super important,” Kosiba said. “We really want to do good by the community, that community for us is Sublette County.”
To explore the online ordering and delivery options, visit https://www.harvie.farm/signup/tumbleweed-farms.
Look For The Bus
Wednesday – LaBarge at greenspace in front of Sinclair station (3 pm – 6 pm)
Thursday – Pinedale High Altitude Market at Sublette County (4 pm – 6:30 pm)
Friday – Marbleton at Country Chalet Inn Motel (4 pm – 7 pm)
Saturday – Pinedale at 210 W. Pine St. next to Two Rivers Fishing Co. (9 am – 1 pm)
Boulder and Bondurant markets coming soon.